[Taxacom] (no subject)

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue Feb 19 10:42:17 CST 2008

From: "Richard Jensen" <rjensen at saintmarys.edu>
Shades of past Taxacom debates.

I know many think of family names as plurals because that's exactly what
they are in Latin. Tod Stuessy and I have debated this point and there
was an extensive exchange here several years ago. I have not altered my
view that family names, when used as collectives, take a singular verb.
Here are two different uses:

1. Fagaceae occur on at least five continents. (the subject here is
implicity "Members of Fagaceae"; no one occurs on all five continents)

2. Fagaceae consists of woody plants. (here, I use a singular verb
because the reference is to the family as a whole).

Some have argued that we must use a plural verb because Fagaceae is a
Latin plural. My reply is, We are not speaking Latin. We are speaking
English. If the form of the noun in its original language were used to
decide the appropriate verb, then I would have to say that "Los Angeles
are a city on the west coast."! That really grates on my ears and nerves.

There is another sense in which Fagaceae can be used in the singular, namely
in "Fagaceae is a botanical name, formed according to Art. 18 of the ICBN".
See also Art. 18, Ex. 6 through 8 (i.e. in the Vienna Code; these were Ex. 5
through 7 in the St. Louis Code)

The situation in English (and related languages) differs in that the English
equivalent (which can be substituted for it) for Fagaceae is "Oak family"
(or "Beech family"). As in "this species belongs to the Fagaceae" is 
equivalent to "this species belongs to the Oak family".  So, the following 
statements are closely comparable:
* "The Oak family consists of woody plants".
* "Fagaceae consists of woody plants".
* "The family Fagaceae consists of woody plants".

In "Fagaceae occur on at least five continents" the name is used in
its strict (Latin) sense.

This does not happen in French, which uses "les Fagacées" as the French
equivalent, with "Fagacée" as the singular?


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